Most of you know that my beloved Maid died in February. She was my cancer therapy dog so when I was in pain, she would lick my face and pull me back from the black hellhole of despair. And when I cried, she licked me as well and put her soft paws around my face to let me it was going to be ok. Cancer is a hard battle to fight and the chemo they put me on was the toughest. They did double rounds since it was so rare and the first time they had ever seen this – USA and Europe. Maid died from the neighbors (1/2 mile away) when they put out rat poison and the owl that lives on my farm, ate a rat then spewed out the poison pellet and she ate it. She died quickly in spite of our efforts to save her. I cried and cried and went down into a deep spiral, wondering how I lost my best friend and how could I finish the chemo. I cried to Scott Glen when he called for the next few days and he was good about me weeping and heard about my plight. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to finish the chemo and radiation without Maid. I cried that I expected her to die of old age, a toddling old dog with cataracts in her eyes and me taking care of her. That it was so unfair that she died and she deserved to live out an old life with me.
A few days later, Scott called and he had a dog that would suit me, to take Maid’s place. It was his top Open dog, Bliss and he was willing to sell her to me to save my life. Not to be an Open dog and he didn’t care if she ever ran, but to be my couch dog, the dog to take care of me during the dark times. I wept.
He dropped her off a week later for a trial period and that night she went to work. She snuggled next to me and when I cried in pain, her soft muzzle was next to my face, licking the tears away. She was in a new place with new dogs, new folks and life so different than before but yet, she fit in like she was destined to be here. I called him a couple of days later and said she would never leave, as she was nestled next to me on the couch. she was softy sleeping and her warm breatheon my face. It seems like she was made for the role and had been here all her life. She settled in and figured out the routine and filled Maid’s role like she was born to do this. She helped me crawl out of the dark hole of depression that cancer strikes you with and soon I began to see the light again. She is related to Maid as well, through Pleat. I see some of Maid in her, her eyes narrowing when she thinks she is slighted or concerned and a deep fascination for the cats. Of wanting to be the queen bee of the house and sleeping next to me. Her personality is kind, wonderful and very caring.
Many hours we spent on the couch or bed, her head next to mine and when needed, a lick to cleanse the tears away. She snuggled deeply with me when I cried out in pain and if she could find out what hurt me, she would be on it like a mama wolf. She was never more than a foot or so away from me. She learned to be friends with Rain and Maid and play with toys. She would stand at the toy box and pull over various toys until she found one to her liking, then would proudly carry it over to me.
We spent many hours together and when I was able I would take her to sheep. We did small gathers and that was it, often no more than five minutes before my body would cry out in pain and I would have to quit. Out first three months on sheep was this and no trial work. We worked out a tight bond from the therapy and on the sheep she wanted to please me. She is not an easy dog to run and can be quite pushy so we found a balance point. She gave me her heart and tries so hard to make me happy. She took my wrong commands willing as well.
In June we started to trial together, my voice weak and her legs strong. We had to work out some issues as she pushing too hard and me trying not being too slow. Some of the runs were wrecks and some just brilliant and we learned how to work with each other. I had issues on her trusting me on the outrun since she crossed but in time, she trusted me. Then I had to rein her in on the fetch and hold a side than flip back, again a trust issue but we sorted it out. I had to give her some more freedom so she would trust me more and in time, we began to synch up as a team. I realized that I only had really been running her for a few weeks before the trials as opposed to a year. It takes a year for a dog to tune in with you and yet, in a few weeks, we managed to do just that. The time on the couch and small gathers and her taking care of me made a difference. We held our own at the trials and began to do better and better.
At Moon Creek which was a very tough trial with super light undogged sheep that bolted, she shone like a diamond. Most of the dogs on the first day did not get a score and yet, she placed third. One ewe was ill and tried to run off or challenge her and she worked her kindly. I was so sick from radiation hat I was unable to eat and felt nauseated when I ran. Bliss held me up. My timing was off but she covered for me. On the second day, she placed fifth and we got the shed that eluded so many dogs. She flew in like a rocket and did her job while I stood and tried not to faint. Both days, she got points for the Finals. I was ecstatic and she was pleased that I was so happy. She was so well trained and it was me that needed the training with her.
Other trials soon followed and we worked out the bugs, her pushing too hard and me too slow on commands. She gave me her heart on the field tried so very hard to please me. Even at warp speed.
Our last trial, this last weekend at Vashon Island was tough. It was my last week of radiation and I spent part of it, throwing up or trying to sleep off the pain. They were radiating my throat and head and it was so raw and hurt so much. Whistling or giving her any commands was like a knife stabbing me in the throat. So much pain, but she listened to me. The first run was nice on the outwork, although she stopped at the setout pens but took my flank to find the sheep. My slow flank at the fetch panels cost us to miss them by a hair. The first leg of the drive was nice then we veered very low on the crossdrive and she didn’t want to release the pressure so it cost us dearly and we timed out in the ring. Still we managed to get a score and only 33% of the dogs got a score that day.
On Sunday we were one of the first dogs up and I napped in the car until our run, as I felt weak. We walked out and I sent her. Most dogs had issues at the lift and as I did the day before, I let her lift the sheep without a word. They veered slightly offline and then I flanked her to stop them from going too far offline. She took every command like a champ and soon the ewes trotted through the elusive fetch panels. The post turn was about 30 feet in front of us and it was going well, until she took a wrong flank and then the sheep bolted. She got them back online and then headed dead on, slot and steady to the first panel.
The sheep were 2 and 3 years old, undogged and had to be handled with kid gloves. She was soft on them and I turned them a hair before the panels. Nice crossdrive with a few minor bobbles and I tried to make sure we didn’t go low on the second drive. As a result we missed the second panel a wee bit high but I wasn’t going to try to fix it as it would be worse. We got the ewes in the ring and she made short work of them on the shed. At this point I was very dizzy so went very slow.
Then to the pen which not many had been done all weekend. One ewe that had been giving her trouble stomped at her and refused to go and darted around the pen with a pal. We gathered them again and slowly got them in and it was a nail bitter as it took lots of time.
We walked them to the ring and had to do a single and got the single in about 5 seconds, Bliss coming in and holding it like the champion she is. I was so happy with her and told her she was a great dog and her wisp of a tail wagged but her huge beam of a smile said it all…."we are a team." We also got more points for the Finals.
She is a grand dog and I love her dearly. She is my therapy dog as well as my trial dog. She is my heart dog and the love of my life and I am so grateful to Scott and Jenny Glen for sending this wonderful dog to me in my life when I needed a lifeline. We will have many years together and soon my battle with cancer will be over (we won) and it will be a distant memory. In the meantime, we are just enjoying life together and snuggles.